Girls returns with a 2-part premiere Sunday night, and with it the inevitable tsunami of “public feelings about Girls.” So many contributions to that already robust canon actually constitute feelings about people on Girls or people who made Girls, and not actually Girls itself; so, let’s put all that crap aside and talk simply about Girls.
Season Two ended in an absurdist spiral, with Hannah and her mental illness-induced pageboy haircut getting rescued from themselves by still-possibly-insane Adam to the crescendo of, like, a Liz Phair song or something. It was the last step in a parade towards the flat-out bizarre, away from the “voice of a generation” claims of the earlier episodes. And actually, that’s great, because I’ve found that Girls is best enjoyed when viewed as a live action cartoon. These girls are not real girls, and that’s OK — who watches TV for reality? That’s what the news is for, and at least if you like fish or beaches or anything, the news is sad.
Now, in Season Three, everyone knows whom they’re supposed to be, and they’ve all been blown out into even more extreme versions of themselves. It’s like Girls: Concentrate. Shoshanna’s got less donut hair, but she’s even more naïve. Marnie’s somehow even dourer than before; her Disney Princess is clouded by a mordant cynicism. Hannah seems like she’s got it together, but she still spouts those deeply un-self aware proclamations for which she’s known. Jessa continues to be essentially lips in a caftan, but she seems to be coming closer to reckoning with the darkness in her life.
That’s kind of the theme: this season is darker. And with the freak show of characters we have, it’s weirder. It’s also a little less funny. It has its moments (an incident involving an edible coffee cup was unexpectedly hilarious), but on the whole, Girls doesn’t have the same pep in its step of the last two seasons.
One bright spot – two actually – are the men. Ray and Adam, who’d developed a fun kind of bromance last season, are just the best. They play the straight man, two ring masters holding it down in this circus of straight-up feminine insanity. As the girls get crazier, acting less and less like semblances of real human people, every word we get out of Ray and Adam is refreshingly honest and real. Adam seems to have really grown into his weirdness and Ray is dealing with a whole bunch of feelings, but they’re doing it honestly. They call the girls out on their BS, they’re two weird looking, walking reality checks. More of them, please.
Season Three sets our heroines down some dark paths, but comedy is tragedy plus time, so look for laughs down the line.